1. Action and Reaction in Moscow
During the last year, the Kremlin took its crackdowns against domestic protesters to new heights, making multiple protest citations a criminal offense for the first time. The Kremlin’s most famous critic, Alexei Navalny, was poisoned, most likely by Russian agents, and then imprisoned upon returning to Russia. Moscow prosecutors moved to close Russia’s best-known NGO, Memorial, as a foreign agent. It even tightened state oversight over guest lectures and extracurricular activity in Russian schools for fear of foreign influence. The Kremlin may be cracking down on its own society as a low-cost way of responding to foreign interventions it dislikes by threatening social actors favored by the West, and thereby complicating the moral calculus of pressuring Moscow. This strategy also betrays an eroding confidence the Kremlin has in the domestic legitimacy of Putin’s power vertical.